Lead exposure in a ship overhaul facility during paint removal

Am Ind Hyg Assoc J. 1988 Mar;49(3):121-7. doi: 10.1080/15298668891379495.


Lead exposures from paint sanding and chipping during ship overhaul were evaluated. Several hundred workers were included in the study. Lead concentrations in 275 bulk paint samples ranged from 0.03% to 17.0% with a 0.25% geometric mean. The geometric mean air lead concentration was 61.0 micrograms/m3 when these paints were sanded and 2.4 micrograms/m3 when they were chipped. Air lead concentrations exceeded the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) when paints containing as little as 0.2% lead were sanded but did not exceed the PEL or the action level when paints containing up to 6.0% lead were chipped. Poor correlation was found between paint lead contents and air lead concentrations for sanding (r = -0.27) and for chipping (r = 0.44). Similarly, poor correlation was found between air lead concentrations and blood lead levels for sanding (r = -0.14) and chipping (r = 0.24). Despite higher air lead concentrations, sanders' blood lead levels were not elevated compared with chippers and were only slightly elevated compared with non-lead workers. An extensive blood monitoring program was found to be particularly effective in assessing lead exposures and uptake while air lead monitoring was of limited value because of the high variability in air lead concentrations and in the nature of the sanding and chipping work during the overhaul. Lead-worker training was felt to be a particularly effective control measure. Blood samples collected toward the end of the overhaul revealed that blood lead and zinc protoporphyrin levels were not rising as the overhaul progressed and neared completion.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis*
  • Dust / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Lead / blood
  • Male
  • Military Personnel
  • Naval Medicine
  • Paint / analysis*
  • Protoporphyrins / blood
  • Ships


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Dust
  • Protoporphyrins
  • zinc protoporphyrin
  • Lead